FreightWatch: Cargo theft risk in Mexico remains "Severe"

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 2/20/2014

Shippers and freight haulers, beware. For the second straight year, Mexico is among the world’s most at-risk countries for cargo theft, according to a new report from FreightWatch International.

FreightWatch, which specializes in tracking supply chain information and cargo thefts around the globe, published a report Wednesday, Feb. 19, on the security risk for both over-the-road and rail freight in Mexico. According to the report, Mexico joined Brazil and South Africa as the only three non-warring countries to earn a “Severe” risk rating – the company’s highest risk designation. 

Cargo theft incident levels in Mexico have been estimated at more than 5,000 per year, according to reports by the country’s Interior Ministry, but FreightWatch said the number “likely fails to represent the true scope of the cargo theft plague in Mexico today.”

The company stated that official reports from the Mexican government do not include theft numbers from all states and “it very likely does not include all thefts in those states that do report cargo crimes, given that this type of crime often goes unreported in the country.”

“While the ministry’s 2013 total is lower than the 5,246 cargo crimes reported for 2012, the general consensus among industry leaders is that cargo crime increased from 2012 to 2013,” the report stated. “FreightWatch fourth quarter data for the two years indicates cargo thefts increased just over 14 percent year to year.”

Doug Morris, OOIDA security operations director, said he concurs with FreightWatch’s assessment that the cargo theft problem in Mexico is underreported.

“Unfortunately the numbers being reported by Mexican authorities are not reflective of the true picture as a large number of cargo thefts are not reported or being intentionally removed from reporting all together,” Morris said. “Cargo theft continues to be a major problem in Mexico, and hijackings are much more prevalent in Mexico than in the United States.”

Food and Drinks continue to be the most-targeted sector for thieves in Mexico, and hijacking remains the most common form of theft, per the report.

“Hijacking is a constant and serious concern in Mexico, as this M.O. (modus operandi) not only poses a threat to shipments but to drivers and their security escorts,” the report stated. “However, the percentage of cargo thefts at the hands of hijackers dropped significantly in 2013 as compared with the previous year, going from 83 percent of all incidents to 64 percent. While this is a positive trend, the fact remains that armed and often violent hijackers remain a significant threat in Mexico.”

Other key trends in 2013 outlined by FreightWatch include:

  • Hijackings decreased;
  • Cargo thieves opted for less confrontational methods of operation;
  • Railway theft increased drastically;
  • Stolen cargo was warehoused in Tlaxcala state; and
  • Violence and civil disorder continued in parts of Mexico

While the percentage of hijackings has reduced, FreightWatch said less confrontational methods of stealing loads are on the rise. Theft of trailers increased from 5 to 10 percent from 2012 to 2013. Driver thefts, either by directly stealing cargo or by colluding with cohorts, also increased in 2013, from less than 1 percent in 2012 to 3 percent last year. Warehouse burglaries rose from one year to the next, accounting for 3 percent of all thefts in 2012 and 6 percent in 2013.

Data for 2013 indicates that thieves concentrated their activities on the central states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Puebla, Morelos, Tlaxcala, the State of Mexico and the Federal District. However, the northern border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Chihuahua (entry and exit points for enormous amounts of cargo moving to and from the United States) also remained at risk.

The report also includes a breakdown of the number of incidents by state, and a list of the most dangerous highways in the country.

Top 10 MunicipalitiesTotal Thefts
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Puebla, Puebla
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Toluca, State of Mexico
San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí
Querétaro, Querétaro
Veracruz, Veracruz
Chihuahua, Chihuahua
Morelia, Michoacán
Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala

High-Risk Highways
When travel on any of Mexico’s highways presents some level of risk, some are more dangerous than others. The most dangerous stretches during 2013, according to FreightWatch:

  • All highways in Michoacán state;
  • Stretches of highway between Guerrero & Veracruz states (highways 134, 950, 150, 129 & 140);
  • Mexico City-Nuevo Laredo (highways 57D, 54, 40, 85 and 85D);
  • Mexico City -Puebla-Oaxaca (highways 150 and 135D); and
  • Zacatecas-San Luis Potosí (Highway 49)
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